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Four Mexican drug gangs meet to form ‘cartel of cartels’

August 30, 2014

The arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has left the Sinaloa Cartel vulnerable against its rivals who appear to have banded together.

Citing U.S. and Mexican intelligence documents, Mexico’s Reforma newspaper reported on Friday that four of the nation’s most powerful drug gangs have discussed banding together to form a “cartel of cartels”.

Leaders of Los Zetas, the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), the Juarez Cartel and the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) reportedly met at a summit in Piedras Negras, Coahuila in a bid to form an alliance that would have a serious impact on the world of Mexican drug trafficking. News of the meeting came from informants working for the U.S. and Mexican authorities, Reforma revealed.

Among those said to be present at the meeting were Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera, the head of the CJNG; Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, alias “El Viceroy,” the leader of the Juarez Cartel; Omar Treviño Morales, alias “Z-42,” the current leader of Los Zetas; and another Zetas leader known as “Z-43”. BLO boss Hector Beltran Leyva was absent, but he was reportedly represented at the summit by his right-hand man, Fausto Isidro Meza, alias “El Chapo Isidro”.

Between them, the four cartels have a presence in a dozen states: Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico State, Nuevo Leon, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Zacatecas.

Sinaloa Cartel absent

The Sinaloa Cartel, which is widely considered Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, was conspicuous by its absence from the talks. Headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman up until his arrest in February, the Sinaloa Cartel is a fierce rival of Los Zetas, the Juarez Cartel and the BLO. It was previously allied to the CJNG, but the news of the summit suggests that the four gangs are teaming up to take on the Sinaloa Cartel while it is in a weakened state.

On top of Guzman’s arrest, the Sinaloa Cartel has lost a string of key leaders and lieutenants in the last nine months. Most notably, Juan Jose “El Azul” Esparragoza Moreno – who had led the cartel alongside Guzman and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and served as a mediator with the Juarez Cartel – reportedly died of a heart attack in June. If the rumors of his death are true (the Mexican government has been unable to confirm them) then the cartel leadership now lies solely in the hands of 66-year-old Zambada.

Strength in numbers

Senator Omar Fayad, president of the Senate Security Commission, told Reforma that the meeting to form a possible alliance was evidence of the weakness of each cartel.

“They don’t feel strong on their own anymore and this is a good sign which the authorities must take advantage of,” Fayad said. “There is a sign of weakness among the Mexican cartels due to the persecution of organized crime by the federal government and the cooperation and coordination with states and municipalities.”

Los Zetas, the ultraviolent gang that controls much of Mexico’s Gulf coast, has been weakened by the arrests and killings of many of its top leaders in the last two years, while the BLO and Juarez Cartel, respectively led by the remnants of the Beltra Leyva and Carrillo Fuentes families, have suffered from being on the receiving end of Sinaloa Cartel offensives.

Previous pacts

A pact between cartels “is not unprecedented,” Fayad added, noting “that alliances have not worked for them in the past because they betray one another. There is almost always someone who wants complete hegemony.”

 This proved the case when the Sinaloa Cartel established the Federation, a loose array of drug gangs with allied interests that soon fell apart when “El Chapo” Guzman began to fall out with his partners. The BLO and the CJNG both started out as offshoots of the Sinaloa Cartel, but the former forged an alliance with Los Zetas in around 2008, while the latter now also seems to have turned against its former ally.

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